Magic in the Air

Toni Serra / Abu Ali

We are on the air. On the air and for all of you.

The magic in this video made by Toni Serra in 1999 is none other than that which is released from the cathode tubes themselves, namely the kind of illusionism that is capable of transforming simple images into realities that influence and distort our lives. “The idiot box” is also that other box that is used in every act of prestidigitation to make things, objects, people, etc. appear and disappear.

In the 11 minutes that this piece lasts, the artist conducts a very personal journey through some corners of one of today’s biggest film collections, the only one, we could say, which allows free access to its content. We are referring to the Prelinger archives, which from its inception houses countless amounts of film, advertising, promotional and educational material, all of which was produced previous to the rapid proliferation of the use of domestic video in the world...

The way that Serra approaches this material and its subsequent production and editing processes, seems to aim at showing us the spiritual, non-corporeal and mental side that would transform that broadcaster of messages, images and familiar signs, that we know as television, into something similar to a religious sect, a sect which, as is the case with most sects, is looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, or tube, the cathodic tube in this case. The coming of a new religion is near, this is what we are able to decipher when we watch this video: a new cult created out of commercial ads and fragments of what used to be considered educational films, all of it capable of carving out fervent and devoted followers always prepared to carry out the commandments written on the surface of our screens.

At one point the video shows us the face of a child illuminated by the light rays coming from a television set. This image might be the one that best illustrates the similarity between spectacle and religious image. From the far end of the screen, the artist manages to pull out a periscope and then brings it closer to us, so that we can better see the spirit inside the television set, so that we can ourselves examine what is behind this mass of media archeology. Come in and see.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Magic in the Air
  • Direction: Toni Serra / Abu Ali
  • Production: Abu Ali Toni Serra+ Joan Leandre. 1999.
  • Duration: 00:10:55
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: Catalan
  • Original format: Mini DV
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright